Published On  Nov 13,  2011






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 Roads embrace different aspects of life in the rapidly growing Addis Abeba. Yet, poorly developed supporting infrastructures have brought increasing causalities on the streets of the city. It is as if heaven got closer than overpasses, one of the supporting infrastructures constructed poorly.  


Heaven Gets Closer Than Overpasses


In the context of Addis Abeba, roads are not just what they are meant to be; smooth surfaces prepared for expedition. Instead, any useful life function could be found on the roads. In fact, they are crucial hosts of life in many cases. For many runaways and delinquents, roads are homes; if by homes, it could mean places to live or take refuge from the vagaries of weather.

Many people live off the revenues of roads. Think of the women in colored gowns, flat-rimmed straw hats, hand gloves and protected faces, holding sweeping brooms and driving wheel barrows to collect garbage that earns them some money at the end of the month. But there are also hundreds, who dutifully rise up early in the morning, some with their children, take their strategic positions on the sides of the road and jingle coins as a signal for drawing attention of pious passersby that give them alms.

Roads are also dumping grounds of construction materials like quarries, sand or soils only to mention a few. The damping is often carried out by contractors that have no regard to the right of way of pedestrians. There could also be some reluctance on the part of the respective regulatory agencies. Roads are also shared by pock animals and bovine. Herds of sheep and goats take a “walk” in the early hours of the day driven to their marketing stalls.

Alike shoe-shining boys, vendors of vegetables, driving wheelbarrows, settle on the roads, sometimes hassling pedestrians should they fail to strike a deal when they bargain prices. There are also thousands of men, young and old, who take to the streets for lack of other places to go. The younger ones stand out waiting for employment. The retired go out and take a walk either to idle out time or just stretch their legs; bus stops and café’s are their favorite places.

With the metropolis transforming at an accelerated speed, new roads and flying passes are being constructed, old roads being expanded left and right, and sky high buildings sprouting. It looks imperative that life styles on the roads are being transformed as well, although it could take time before people come into grips with the changes.

Take the case of pedestrians and the problems of city transport services. Whether we like it or not, urbanization is growing at a rate higher than some of us would like to reveal. Incidentally, the official figure of the population of the capital is still over two million, a figure taken from the latest census. The same figure is often quoted years after it was issued, for some obscure reason, as if population growth is static. Be that as it may, Addis Abeba is expanding breadth and width. New settlement areas are distancing dwellers every month by a mile.



All these expansions are bound to have their tolls on transport and other social services. The problem is particularly serious for people without their own private automobiles. Support infrastructures like sidewalks for pedestrians have not, unfortunately, expanded to match the requirements. A typical sideline impact is the ever increasing member of traffic accidents.

Curtsey to the Addis Abeba Traffic Office, the daily accident figures broken into categories of intensity are reported through many radio channels. Awareness creation programs are frequently aired albeit in vain. The city's roads authority is doing all it can to mitigate the death-dealing problem. The volume of pedestrians during peak hour cannot be over emphasized. 

Over passing structures installed at Arat Kilo Squre, with a cost of over six million Birr, do not seem to be functional, although they were meant to serve pedestrians crossing the roads.

Some people say that the stairs are installed far apart and inconvenient to climb up. Others complain that overpasses are rather obstructions that had taken too long to be fixed and do not address the problem of crossing the road.

As I stood by on the square recently, an old man with a walking stick came and tried to use the overpass. He tried to compose himself and held the rail tightly. He took the first step with some effort and smiled. After a minute, he managed to climb the second stair and then the third. His legs started shaking and beads of sweat showed on his forehead. His smiling face turned into an embarrassed expression.

He, then, looked down to make sure where his foot should land. It took him longer to climb down the three steps. He vowed that he would never try climbing again.

Several people that I talked to argued that the structures were not feasibly fit to the behaviours of the users.

Some even made comparisons that ring roads, which are essentially built to curtail travel time, have now turned out to be shortcuts to heaven or hell. As new roads continue to be constructed, so have the old problems prevailed.

BY Girma Feyissa




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